Over one in six youth out of work due to COVID-19: ILO

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More than one in six young people have stopped working since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic while those who remain employed have seen their working hours cut by 23 per cent, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which recently said the substantial and rapid increase in youth unemployment seen since February is affecting women more than men.

According to the ‘ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work: 4th edition’, the pandemic is not only destroying young people’s employment, it is also disrupting education and training, and placing major obstacles in the way of those seeking to enter the labour market or to move between jobs.

At 13.6 per cent, the youth unemployment rate in 2019 was already higher than for any other group. There were around 267 million young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) worldwide. Those 15-24 year olds who were employed were also more likely to be in forms of work that leave them vulnerable, such as low paid occupations, informal sector work, or as migrant workers, ILO said in a press release.

“The COVID-19 economic crisis is hitting young people – especially women – harder and faster than any other group. If we do not take significant and immediate action to improve their situation, the legacy of the virus could be with us for decades. If their talent and energy is side-lined by a lack of opportunity or skills it will damage all our futures and make it much more difficult to re-build a better, post-COVID economy,” said ILO director general, Guy Ryder.

The document calls for urgent, large-scale and targeted policy responses to support youth, including broad-based employment or training guarantee programmes in developed countries, and employment-intensive programmes and guarantees in low- and middle-income economies.

The 4th edition of the monitor says rigorous testing and tracing of COVID-19 infections, “is strongly related to lower labour market disruption…. [and] substantially smaller social disruptions than confinement and lockdown measures.”

In countries with strong testing and tracing, the average fall in working hours is reduced by as much as 50 per cent. There are three reasons for this: testing and tracing reduces reliance on strict confinement measures; promotes the public confidence and so encourages consumption and supports employment; and helps minimise operational disruption at the workplace, the press release said.

The Monitor also updates the estimate for the decline in working hours in the first (Q1) and second (Q2) quarters of 2020, compared with the fourth quarter of 2019. An estimated 4.8 per cent of working hours were lost during Q1 2020 (equivalent to approximately 135 million full-time jobs, assuming a 48-hour working week).